, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 3 – President Uhuru Kenyatta made it clear on Saturday that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was “firmly” in charge of the mediation efforts between the warring parties in South Sudan.
He said any and all efforts intended to end hostilities between supporters of South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar should therefore be channeled through the Authority of which he is Rapporteur.
He made the assertion after meeting Kiir, who had called on him at State House Nairobi to brief him on the talks he held with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Juba on Friday.
“President Kenyatta made it clear that IGAD will not accept fragmentation of the ongoing peace talks on the South Sudan crisis,” a statement from the Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) reads.
At Saturday’s meeting, which was also attended by Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom, his Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed and Deputy President William Ruto, it was also agreed that the IGAD Summit slated for Juba would take place after Kiir and Machar held face to face talks.
“President Kenyatta who is the IGAD rapporteur said following IGAD requests the face-to-face talks will take place in the shortest time possible,” the statement continues to read.
Kiir agreed to the face-to-face talks with Machar following the talks with Kerry and after previous efforts by IGAD to ensure adherence to the cessation of hostilities agreement, signed in January.
“He (Kiir) said the US Secretary of State appreciated that African countries are better placed in resolving conflicts afflicting the continent and more so the IGAD led initiatives in South Sudan,” the PSCU statement however reads.
Saturday’s statement from the PSCU did however not fail to mention President Kenyatta’s role in securing the release of seven political prisoners, thought to be Machar sympathizers, from Kiir.
But if Kerry’s statement to the press following his talks with Kiir is to be believed, the US has also been working actively behind the scenes in an effort to restore peace to South Sudan.
“President Kiir and I have spoken about this (the face to face meeting with Machar) many times over the course of the last months. We particularly spoke almost every day during the period from December 15, 2013 through the Christmas period.
“In fact, I even talked to him on Christmas Day, and was particularly pleased today to be able to return to Juba in order to sit down and discuss these issues face to face,” Kerry stated.
And perhaps rather tellingly, the PSCU statement on Saturday was followed by mention of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s, “game changing,” visit to Kenya next week.
“President Kenyatta said this region requires a strong partner who will not only support it in economic ventures but also in peace settlement,” it reads.